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Bipolar disorder misinformation prevents people from seeking help

The mental illness affects up to 1% of the population in South Africa, yet the South African yet stigma and discrimination against people bipolar stop them from getting medical attention.

Bushbuckridge – Sibangani Ngobeni says living with bipolar disorder has been tough, but being on medication and following a healthy lifestyle means he can manage the condition.

“I was given the diagnosis three years ago after battling for years with anxiety, mood swings and suicidal thoughts,” he said.

Ngobeni, 28, said people believed his condition was caused by witchcraft. “I was isolated and no one wanted to socialise with my family.” Eventually, his family took him to a clinic where he received therapy and was put on medication. 

Sibangani Ngobeni the 28-year-old with bipolar disorder. Photo: Cynthia Maseko / Health-e

In addition to taking his medication, Ngobeni also exercises regularly and eats a balanced diet. “I am longer that shy young man who used to keep things to himself. I know when you talk you relieve stress,” he said.

Affected people

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), bipolar disorder affects up to 1% of the population in South Africa, which is about 500,000 people.

The group explained that people living with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings, from a high that feels like you are on top of the world, to a very deep depression.  

“The condition impacts on your daily functioning, including work, home and relationships. Bipolar disorder is more than just mood swings. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation about it, especially the stigma that prevents a lot of people from seeking help or disclosing their diagnosis.”

According to nurse Phindile Mathebula, mental illnesses are not always accepted in communities and sometimes people with mental health conditions are hidden away because the family is ashamed.  “My plea to the community is to take patients with mental health issues to a health facility, support them and encourage them to take their medication,” she said.

Ngobeni called on people to work together to stop the stigma and discrimination against people with mental illness.

“Disorders can affect the young, the old, men, women and all races,” he said. “Please, if you or someone you know has a mental disorder seek professional because the earlier the diagnosis the better.” – Health-e News

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